An IEC placard outside a voting station Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA).
An IEC placard outside a voting station Picture Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA).

IEC quizzed over language policy at electoral readiness briefing

By Mwangi Githahu Time of article published May 25, 2021

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Cape Town - The Electoral Commission of South Africa’s language policy came under the microscope in the legislature during a presentation by the IEC and Department of Home Affairs on the state of election-readiness in the province.

Member of the joint standing committee on local government and the premier and constitutional matters, Peter Marais (Freedom Front Plus), asked whether the information from the IEC would be available in Afrikaans, which is one of the province’s three official languages.

“This information must be distributed to our party structures so that they know what’s going on. The FF+ has got a lot of supporters who are mainly Afrikaans speaking. To give this to our regional organisers and leaders in English will mean very little to them.

“I am appealing to the legislature to make a decision that presentations of this nature be given in Afrikaans as well as English because Afrikaans is the home language of the majority of the people in this province.”

Western Cape IEC provincial head Michael Hendrickse said most of the information provided in the presentation was in the form of statistics and as such it was possible to convert it to the official languages.

“As the IEC we communicate in the three official languages of the province when we do our voter education programmes. This is evident from our appearances on community radio stations where we communicate in the language of that particular community.”

As for the presentation being available to members of the legislature in Afrikaans, Hendrickse said he would have to check the IEC’s resources, but that they would certainly try to do a translation into Afrikaans for members.

With regards to voter education, he said one of the key areas of communication in the upcoming local government elections will involve the IEC explaining the new Covid-19 protocols and how these will keep voters, election staff, observers, party agents and others safe

Hendrickse also said the rise of social media has seen a rise in disinformation which has the potential to undermine the freeness and fairness of elections.

"To remedy this, the IEC will be educating voters on the dangers of disinformation and how to spot and report it."

Meanwhile, during the sitting it emerged that there were more than 53 000 identify documents in the province which have yet to be collected by residents.

As of May 1 249 573 ID smart cards and 3 164 green ID books are waiting for collection at Home Affairs offices across the province, while 34 are waiting for collection at banks and 262 will be available through the department’s mobile units which will be visiting different districts in the lead up to the elections.

In a statement after the session, the joint committee chairpersons Derrick America and Ricardo Mackenzie said: “We encourage residents to visit their local banks and Department of Home Affairs offices in order to collect their ID documents so that they can have their voices heard later this year when up to 3 million voters make their ways to the polls in the province.”

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